London Police Chief Defends Facial Recognition System Despite 98 Percent Failure Rate

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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London’s police chief defended her team’s use of a facial recognition system Wednesday that is believed to have a failure rate of 98 percent.

Cressida Dick, the commissioner for the London Metropolitan Police force, doesn’t anticipate the automated technology to lead to “lots of arrests,” she said during a hearing at the London Assembly, according to The Register. Nonetheless, the public should expect that law enforcement will test the advanced systems, she added.

The technology has already been tested, according to data obtained through a freedom of information law by a watchdog group. The results: the system had a 98 percent false-positive rate, meaning that in only one of 50 times was it able to accurately identify the faces seen. Put differently, 49 out of 50 innocent people were inappropriately matched, an ominous prospect if reliance or confidence becomes high.

It’s not just London’s police department.

“South Wales Police store photos of all innocent people incorrectly matched by facial recognition for a year, without their knowledge, resulting in a biometric database of over 2,400 innocent people,” Big Brother Watch wrote on its page called “Face Off Campaign.” This specific organization has a 91 percent failure rate with the technology.

The Metropolitan Police misidentified “95 people at last year’s Notting Hill Carnival as criminals — yet the force is planning 7 more deployments this year,” the group continued.

Other events with several instances of false-positives for the two police departments include rugby matches, festivals and concerts. In almost every case, the number of false-positives exceed the true-positives, showing how faulty the technology is. (RELATED: Beijing Toilets Now Have Face Scanners)

The U.K. isn’t the only one employing or trying to employ automated facial recognition technology in an attempt to decrease criminal activity.

Documents and communications recently obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union show that Amazon is offering its facial recognition services to local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. (RELATED: City Of Orlando Calls Of Facial Recognition Partnership With Amazon After Backlash)

Nationally, the Department of Homeland Security was reportedly exploring the purchasing or development of technology that can scan people’s faces more effectively as they drive. Its purpose would ostensibly be for better understanding of who is crossing the American borders, but civil liberties advocates worry that it is just more technology contributing to the already formidable surveillance state.

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